Lance Armstrong Loses Ground in Fraud Case
(CN) - Disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong must face claims that he defrauded the U.S. government by using performance-enhancing drugs, a federal judge ruled.
Armstrong, 42, was stripped of his seven Tour de France wins and faces a lifetime ban from the sport after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency released a "reasoned decision" in 2012 that accused him of running the most sophisticated doping program in sports history.
The Austin, Texas, native later admitted to many of the allegations in a January 2013 interview with television personality Oprah Winfrey.
Later that year, the federal government joined a lawsuit that Floyd Landis had filed in 2010 against Armstrong, who was lead rider on their professional cycling team, which the U.S. Postal Service sponsored from 1996 through 2004.
The Postal Service allegedly paid $42 million in sponsorship fees during six of Armstrong's consecutive Tour wins.
Landis claimed that former team manager Johan Bruyneel, whom he also named as a defendant, knew team members were using the banned drugs and that Armstrong and his management company, Tailwind Sports, among others knowingly flouted the Postal Service sponsorship agreements signed in 1995 and 2000.
A failed drug test cost Landis his 2006 Tour de France win as well, and he was banned from the sport for two years.
U.S. District Judge Robert Wilkins in Washington, D.C., refused Thursday to toss allegations that Armstrong knowingly made a false statement, in violation of the False Claims Act, to conceal an obligation to pay the federal government money.
"The government's and [Landis'] complaints are rife with allegations that Armstrong had knowledge of the doping, and that he made false statements to conceal the doping and the attendant obligation which would have resulted if the government had known of the doping," the 81-page ruling states. "The court therefore denies the motion to dismiss the reverse false claims count against Armstrong."
Wilkins did, however, nix conspiracy and other claims against Thom Weisel, a California-based financier who owned the U.S. Postal Service cycling team.
Landis "failed to allege that Mr. Weisel 'caused' to be made or used a false record or statement material to a false or fraudulent claim," Wilkins wrote. "Furthermore, there are insufficient allegations that Weisel had knowledge of the doping, and without such knowledge, he could not have had knowledge of any obligation to repay the government or have a purpose to conceal, avoid or decrease any such obligation."
Armstrong's attorney, Robert Luskin with Patton Boggs in Washington, has not responded to a request for comment.
Armstrong still faces a lawsuit in Texas state court over $12 million on Tour win bonuses that a Dallas sports insurer paid him. Though SCA Promotions had initially refused to pay Armstrong a bonus for his 2003 Tour win based on its suspicions that he was doping, it ultimately settled for $12 million when Armstrong sued it and vehemently denied cheating in later sworn depositions.
Armstrong's subsequent admissions of doping led SCA to file suit to demand its money back. Armstrong was deposed in the case on June 12.